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Parliament Hill or Bust is a Risk

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It looks like all or nothing, with a long list of rules to be waived

Parliament Hill, Ottawa Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images

On Monday morning, Cyril Leeder went on TSN 1200 and said "There's really only one option we've been working on and that's to try to find a way to make that game work on Parliament Hill. (TD Place) is not an option we’ve looked at, at all, in any detail and we’ve been really focused on the Hill."

It’s a bold strategy, and hosting an outdoor game on Parliament Hill would set the new gold standard for an outdoor venue. But as the CBC reported this morning, the list of rules for events on the Hill is long and the Winter Classic would break a large number of them.

"(TD Place) is not an option we’ve looked at"

Right off the top, organized sporting events are not allowed. Charging admission for an event on Parliament Hill is not allowed, nor is commercial advertising. Even fundraising is banned, so there goes the 50/50.

Selling of anything is not allowed on the Hill itself - that’s no food, alcohol or merchandise. Moving the sales to spaces around Parliament Hill works for food and merch, but not the booze - consumption of alcohol is prohibited on the Hill. With the food, they’re also not allowed to have cooking equipment on the Hill.

There’s a whole list of logistical rules that would have to be broken as well. While it would surely be an afternoon game, which would fit into the 7am to 9pm window - that window is also supposed to include setup and tear down. The NHL is getting very good at setting up outdoor rinks, but I don’t think they’re quite that good yet.

Events are generally required to confine themselves to the walkway between the Centennial Flame and the main steps, which is obviously too small to host a hockey game. The rules do allow for use of the lawn with permission from the Committee on the use of Parliament Hill, however. If things would spill over onto the main steps, that’s a separate rule requiring advanced permission.

While putting structures in place isn’t fully prohibited, it is explicitly mentioned as requiring pre-authorization by the Committee. Same goes for any filming. A pop-up stadium may also require breaking the rules for “fixtures”, “signs” and “props”. Even bringing vehicles onto the Hill to deliver materials requires advanced permission.

There are also a number of city bylaws mentioned, but those would be an issue for any venue they could choose.

On the upside, they should be fine on the rules prohibiting fires, weapons, weddings, balloons and hunger strikes.

This doesn’t even get into the other practical issues, such as the financial costs and potential security concerns.

Here’s the good news: the Committee on the use of Parliament Hill has the authority to waive any of these rules. There’s the obvious ones, like Canada Day and the days it takes to set up for it. Yoga on the Hill takes place on the lawn, not the walkway. But Canada Day is put on by the Government itself, and the yoga a free event that only requires leeway on one rule that explicitly mentions the chance of flexibility. That’s a big difference from a private, commercial event that would need up to 16 of the 25 rules modified or waived. Several of which - like charging admission - don’t seem to have ever been relaxed.

Therein lies the risk. While it could always be a negotiation tactic, the Senators seem to be going all-in on Parliament Hill for an outdoor game but it’s the Government that holds most of the cards. There appears to be the will from all sides to try to make it work, but it’s a long list and the will may not last long enough to get through everything on it.

But fingers crossed.